Grand Lake / Live Music: Music echoes from the Highlands to the Appalachians
March 14, 2008
The Grand Arts Council is proud to present acclaimed Celtic guitarist Jerry Barlow for a special St. Patrick’s Day celebration Concert in the Pines performance in Grand Lake.
Barlow specializes in Celtic fingerstyle guitar, which encompasses the traditional music of Ireland, Scotland, Northern France, England and Cape Breton Island (off Nova Scotia). His repertoire is a mixture of traditional pieces from these areas, as well as several of his original compositions.
For hundreds of years these sounds have been played on instruments like the harp, penny whistle and fiddle. Guitarists from the British Isles then tried out fingerstyle arrangements of those same tunes in the 1960s and the styling became popular.
Barlow said the tunings on his guitar puts out sounds similar to that of the pipes, harp and fiddle. He said one of the good things about the style is that, while his thumb plays the base line, his fingers can play a melody at the same time, “to capture more of the haunting beauty of this ancient music.”
The vast majority of his musical influence is from other great fingerstyle players ” Al Pettaway, Pierre Bensusane, Martin Simpson and Ed Gerhard.
Inspired by a brother who played the trumpet and guitar, Barlow bought his first guitar with $50 he won at a Bingo game when he was 15. Music that grew from the Irish and Scots who settled in the Appalachian Mountains of Tennessee where he grew up sparked his “love affair” with Celtic music.
“The Irish and Scots settled in those hills in the 1700s and our Old Timey mountain music and our bluegrass music are the grandchildren of those old Irish and Scottish fiddle tunes,” he said.
Barlow is a solo performer who enjoys interacting with his audiences between songs.
He said he likes to talk about the history of the music and the circumstances under which it has been played. Along with his music, Barlow mixes in some of his humor and shared legends.
“I am always delighted when I can make the audience laugh with me,” he said. He also does a little bit of singing, “sea shanties mostly,” but for the most part his performance is instrumental.
His shows are said to include lively jigs, spirited reels and beautiful airs that soothe the soul, warm the heart and lift the spirit.
Every now and then when he plays those tunes he’ll ask if anyone in the audience knows how to do a step dance and sometimes they’ll come up and entertain everyone with a demonstration.
“Jerry Barlow’s performances reveal a performer who is skilled, funny and riveting. Out of the many musicians performing today, the vast majority are skilled in either performing on their instrument or in entertaining an audience,” said Scott Beach, entertainment director of Colorado Celtic Entertainment. “It’s very rare and extremely enjoyable to see a musician at the very top of his craft in both areas.”
The title track off his latest CD, “Bring Down the Storm” won Barlow an Independent Acoustic Music Award in 2006 and songs from his first CD, “Keepsake” have been played on National Public Radio and were included in a PBS documentary called “Song of Our Children.” Both albums will be available for purchase at the show.
Barlow was also featured in Fingerstyle Guitar magazine and has performed at several venues in and around Denver, including with the Swallow Hill Music Association, the Performing Arts Festival and at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival.
He returns for his third performance in Grand Lake and said he’s “always delighted to come back because the audiences are so warm and appreciative.” He hopes guests leave “feeling entertained, educated and uplifted.”